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Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

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    Darren Naish Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.
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  • The changing life appearance of dinosaurs

    Jurassic dinosaurs as illustrated by Peter Zallinger: these are svelte, lightweight animals typical of the late 1970s and 80s. Hat-tip to LITC for the scan.

    Anyone who knows anything about Mesozoic dinosaurs will be – or certainly should be – familiar with the fact that our view of what these animals looked like in life has changed substantially within the last several decades. The ‘dinosaur renaissance’ of the late 1960s and 70s saw the flabby-bodied, tail-dragging behemoths of earlier decades [...]

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    Nuthatch Empire

    A nuthatch montage. Top left: Pygmy nuthatch (photo by Jimfbleak CC BY-SA-3.0). Top right: White-breated nuthatch (photo by Snowmanradio CC BY-SA-3.0). Bottom: Western rock nuthatch (photo by Devonpike CC BY-SA-3.0).

    Today I’d like to focus on passerine birds again, and this time on a group that I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about before: the certhioids. Scrap that. This article ended up being devoted entirely to just one lineage within Certhioidea: the nuthatches, or sittids (properly Sittidae). We start with the image above, taken in [...]

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    More passerines as seen from the peripheries (part III): Great tits!

    Parus major, aka Great tit, photographed in southern England in early 2014. Photo by Darren Naish.

    Welcome to another of my articles on passerines from the peripheries. As before, the idea here is that we’re looking at passerine bird groups as seen ‘from the fringes’ – from an obscure, maritime archipelago on the eastern fringes of the North Atlantic, far from the places where these birds underwent most of their evolution [...]

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    The LonCon3 Speculative Biology event

    SpecBio postcards printed by Memo: these few feature (top left) a selection of Squamozoic animals by Darren Naish, (lower left) a Snaiad creature by Memo Kosemen, and (right) a Greenworld Bounty poster by Dougal Dixon.

    I’ve just returned from LonCon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention, held at the enormous ExCel Exhibition Centre in east London. Yeah, I know, sci-fi isn’t exactly a normal part of the Tet Zoo remit but, on this occasion, there really is overlap since I was there for a set of special Speculative Biology talks [...]

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    Blue tits: passerines seen from the peripheries (part II)

    Preening Eurasian blue tit doing weird stuff with its wing: a bird that I photographed in April 2014. Photo by Darren Naish.

    Today I want to talk more about passerines, and I know that this will make you happy. In particular: TITS!! Tits of several species are ubiquitous here in Europe. The two that are most frequently encountered here in southern England are the Great tit Parus major and Eurasian blue tit Cynanistes caeruleus. This article was [...]

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    The 6-ton Blue whale model at London’s Natural History Museum

    As close as you can get to the NHM Blue whale model. Such a thing of great beauty. Photo by Darren Naish.

    A series of meetings meant that I found myself in London’s Natural History Museum yesterday, and with my friends and Tet Zoo supporters Dan and Felix Bridel (great t-shirt, Felix) I spent a while gawping at the always fascinating life-sized Blue whale Balaenoptera musculus model that hangs in the Mammal Hall. The Mammal Hall is infinitely [...]

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    Chiffchaffs: a view of passerines from the peripheries (part I)

    Chiffchaff, leaf warbler examplar. Photo by Darren Naish.

    Every now and again I make an effort to get through a little bit more of passerine bird diversity (see the list of articles below for previous efforts). This is such an enormous and vastly diverse clade, alas, that I’ll probably never manage it – unless, that is, that I blog about passerines and not [...]

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    50 million years of incredible shrinking theropod dinosaurs

    Theropod dinosaurs encompass a huge range of body sizes. This illustration shows a Broad-billed Hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris) in front of a tooth of the giant allosauroid Carcharodontosaurus. Images courtesy of Terry Sohl and Christophe Hendrickx.

    Some time round about 165 million years ago, the group of small, feathered dinosaurs that we call birds evolved from within the theropod radiation (theropods are the so-called ‘predatory dinosaurs’: the great group that includes animals like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor as well as the birds). As anyone reasonably familiar with recent palaeontological discoveries will know, [...]

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    Simbirskiasaurus, Pervushovisaurus and their very, very strange nostrils: the Cretaceous Ichthyosaur Revolution (part III)

    Life reconstruction of Platypterygius australis by Frank Knight; the species concerned is one of the best known of species included within Platypterygius. It was a large, robust-jawed, long-paddled ophthalmosaurid with numerous stout teeth. Stomach contents confirm a generalised diet of invertebrates and vertebrates.

    The event you’ve all been waiting for is here: Simbirskiasaurus and Pervushovisaurus have been resurrected, and we’re all wondering what the hell’s going on with their absurd, complex nostrils. Yes, welcome to another instalment in the long-running, slow-burning series of Tet Zoo articles on Cretaceous ichthyosaur diversity. In previous articles we’ve looked at the 2012 [...]

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    Humans among the primates

    A montage of modern primates. From left to right: human, tarsier, eastern gorilla, bonobo, orangutan, crested gibbon, capuchin, macaque, lemur. Image by Darren Naish.

    It is not in the least bit controversial to picture humans* within the context of the placental mammal group that we belong to, the primates. Nor is it unusual for primatologists, anthropologists or biologists of other sorts to compare the anatomy, social or sexual behaviour, lifestyles or cognitive abilities of humans with those of other [...]

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